top tier beckons for castleknock
A strong first-half showing paid dividends at Parnell Park on Sunday afternoon, as Castleknock held off the challenge of Fingallians to secure the Dublin Intermediate Football Championship title.
Following their triumph at the junior grade two years ago, this victory completes an unforgettable journey to the senior ranks for Castleknock, and when you consider that star forward Ciarán Kilkenny is still battling back from a cruciate ligament injury, it makes this achievement all the more remarkable.
For Fingallians, this was the third year in succession that they came up short in the IFC decider, and although an early goal from three-time All-Star Paul Flynn (pictured right) suggested that it might be their day, the Somerton men ultimately held the upper hand.
Fins had to contend with a stiff breeze for the opening period of play, but after a free from wing-forward Mark Gibson had cancelled out Colin Lynch's opener, the dynamic Flynn found the back of Cian O'Hara's net.
Centre-forward David Killeen was aiming to register his side's second point when he gathered the ball inside the Castleknock '45' seven minutes in.
However, when his effort dropped short, Flynn (who started in a roving role before spending large spells at full-forward) rose highest to fist beyond the reach of the stranded O'Hara.
This looked like being a major psychological boost for Sean O'Toole's side, but after receiving a Dessie Carlos pass on the run, Kevin Kindlon's emphatic strike found its way past netminder Rossa Kelleher for a sublime ninth-minute goal.
The pace of the game had been relentless up to this point, but in a seven-minute purple patch, Castleknock (who are managed by former Kildare goalkeeper Enda Murphy) fired over five unanswered scores from Matt Griffin (two), Carlos (free), Kindlon and centre-back Tom Quinn ('45').
Fins were now struggling to secure primary possession in their forward line, but a majestic point from a tight angle by the reliable Flynn finally brought their opponents' scoring sequence to a halt.
Nevertheless, Carlos stepped forward to add his second of the day one minute before the interval, giving Castleknock a commanding 1-7 to 1-2 mid-way buffer in the process.
If Fins were to have any hope of swinging the pendulum back their way, they needed to issue a serious statement of intent upon the resumption.
Flynn's superb 32nd minute point from distance certainly lifted the Lawless Park faithful, and when Gibson split the posts with relative ease three minutes later, they had cut even further into the deficit.
They were finding difficult to build on this momentum, however, and despite having to wait 12 minutes to post their first score of the half, the excellent Griffin's third point reinforced Castleknock's superiority.
Yet, by reaching a third consecutive showdown, Fingallians have shown that they are a resilient group.
Thanks to three points without reply from Donal Farrell (two) and Roscommon panellist Donie Keane, only the minimum separated the teams ten minutes from the end.
Griffin's spurned goal chance might well have deflated Castleknock, but white flag contributions from Colin Lynch and midfielder Jamie Tunney significantly eased their nerves.
There were some nervy moments for them during the dying embers of the action, and even though former Dublin minor Graham Hannigan received a black card deep into time added on, the victorious Castleknock did enough to prevail.
Scorers - Castleknock: K Kindlon 1-1, M Griffin 0-3, D Carlos (2f), C Lynch 0-2, T Quinn ('45'), J Tunney 0-1 each. Fingallians: P Flynn 1-2, M Gibson (2f), D Farrell 0-2 each, D Keane 0-1.
CASTLEKNOCK: C O'Hara; C Neville, G Hannigan, E O'Brien; T Shields, T Quinn, J Rafter; S Lynch, J Tunney; K Kindlon, D Carlos, D McConn; C Lynch, M Griffin, S Boland. Subs: V Turner for McConn (45), C Byrne for C Lynch (62), M Brady for S Lynch (65), D Kinneavey for Hannigan (65, BC).
FINGALLIANS: R Kelleher; D Fagan, D Clarke, N Fagan; D Keane, D Campion, G Campbell; D Deasy, G Donnelly; C McLoughlin, D Killeen, M Gibson; E Creamer, P Flynn, D Campbell. Subs: C Costello for Deasy (45), C O'Neill for Creamer (47), E Sweeney for Donnelly (62).
MENTORS - Castleknock: E Murphy, J Maguire, J McMenamin. Fingallians: S O'Toole, S Daly, A Hanrahan, B Fagan.
REF: David O'Connor (Naomh Mearnog).
WIDES - Castleknock: 5(1). Fingallians: 5(3).
CONDITIONS: Dry and breezy with sunny spells.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Matt Griffin (Castleknock).